I ask this question a lot on this blog because the answer to the question is incredibly important. Why do we fail so often and so miserably, especially when we know damn well that more American voters are on our side, politically speaking?
However, there is a second question we need to answer. And this one may be even more important because the answer to the question could very well determine whether or when we get up off the proverbial mat and make politics work for everyone. The American people really are on our side, at least for the most part. And why not? Liberals and progressives want cleaner air and water, we want to switch away from dirty oil and coal to much cleaner solar, wind and geothermal. We want American children to have at least as good an education as every other country in the world. We also want the workplace to be more egalitarian we want all markets to be open, free and competitive and we want every person inside this country, regardless of the color of their skin, their sex or gender or their sexual orientation, to have the same level of opportunity to do something great, for themselves, their families, and their country.
We on the left also want every worker to be paid fairly, at a wage that allows them to live without stressing out over how they will be able to pay for food or a place to live for their children. We believe healthcare is a right, and no one should face losing everything they have worked for because someone they don’t even know sneezed in their vicinity and made them sick. We think food should be priced fairly and be healthy and as disease-free as possible. We think consumer products should be safe. And for God’s sake, we not only want those who are religious and those who are not to be free of the tyranny of those who think their religion and that everyone should be able to walk around freely, with little or no fear of being shot by anyone, especially police, unless they pose an imminent threat to someone else.
There is a lot more on this very blog. Just click on the “Progressive Manifesto” in the menu above. How could anyone be against us, really, especially when you compare it to the Republican “God, Guns, Gays and Abortion” platform they’ve perpetuated for years. So, again I ask, why do we keep losing elections? And for better and worse, the solution is amazingly simple. It just requires that we do things the right way, rather than the expedient way, and propagate an actual progressive or liberal message.
The primary reason our progressive message fails to catch on with most Americans is because we don’t really have one. See all of that above? We actually believe that, but we don’t really discuss that. Read the liberal blogs. Most of the time, they are engaged in expressing their disgust over the Outrage of the Day™, which refers to some sort of ridiculous thing that someone said or did that liberals are required to show outrage over, in ordered to be considered a Real Progressive™. If any liberal or progressive demonstrates indifference at the Outrage of the Day™ or suggests that the blogs perpetuating said Outrage of the Day™ Are beating a dead horse or making a mountain out of a mole hill, they are branded as “Centrists™ and banished from progressive-land forever. Thankfully, very few unicorn progressives actually preside over “progressive-land. Only white liberals who gave up on the Democratic Party long ago run that part of the progressive “movement.” Instead of making the progressive message clear to more people, people on the left and right say something incredibly stupid, and we focus on them and what was said. That is not as effective as creating a message that makes such expressions meaningless. Our message simply must be a lot more than saying “no it’s not” to typical right wing (or left wing) bullshit.
Here’s an example, and I’m sure everyone reading this has seen it.
Take all of constant harping about Gerrymandering and voter suppression, for example. It’s not progressive to give voters the idea that there is no way to fight the Republican Party, which is what you do every goddamn time you whine about that shit and do nothing about it. Only one political party engages in that shit, so if you’re not going to do anything about solving the problem, what the hell good is whining about it constantly? Getting rid of the GOP is the only way we’ll ever solve the problems most unicorn progressives somplain about most often, and yet, they have a greater tendency to bash Democrats.
Huge jobs bills never even get discussed because Republicans run things, and the GOP runs things because our unicorn professional left would rather waste their time throwing stones at Hillary Cllnton’s imperfections and the Blue Dogs’ need to do conservative things at time to keep from losing their seats.
In 2010 and 2014, these idiots targeted Blue Dogs and got rid of most of them. That wasn’t progressive, however, since every single one was replaced wth a teabagger. When we get rid of bad apples and replace them with rottten apples, what have we gained? The way to change Blue Dogs is not to bash the hell out of them. We have to change what’s acceptable for politicians to say and do, and the way to do that is by changing hearts and minds. Ironically, we’re doing exactly that with the concept of gay rights and marriage equality. The rules have changed on that subject because we are making people see that they already know gay people, and that the law is unfair to people they know and love. It’s no longer acceptable to be anti-gay, precisely because we changed the parameters of the debate.
We need to adopt that on politics as a whole. Instead of arguing with dimwits on climate change, we need to change the debate to “where’s the downside to switching to solar and wind power and electric cars?” Instead of constantly screaming about massive budget cuts on social programs every goddamn day, why don’t we tolerate the Blue Dogs of this world and work to change the debate to something we can win, like, “Why should people be working 60-80 hours a week and not making enough to pay the bills?” or “Why are any working people on welfare at all?” Instead of constantly getting into it with morons who want to kill Obamacare, transform the debate to “Why should anyone lose everything they’ve worked for all their lives because someone at the supermarket sneezed on them and got them sick?”
As I said last week, we must stop obsessing over individual politicians, events and issues, and we need to spend more time trying to change the mindset of the American people. And the only way to do that is to present an alternative that is more acceptable and to let that fill the vacuum. The problem isn’t Donald Trump, it’s what he represents. Likewise, the problem isn’t right wingers, it’s their basic philosophy, which is morally and ethically bankrupt in every way. They have far too much influence on the electorate and they get to make policy and laws. Instead of opposing them, we cede ground to them. They simply focusing on whatever gets liberals outraged enough to react. And we should know that will never work, politically.
As bad as things look these days, changing hearts and minds is very doable. Beginning with the 1932 elections and going for almost a half century, we did exactly that, by working with Democrats and not against them. During that period of time, we changed this country for the better. Then, suddenly, beginning with the 1968 election, progressives seemed to forget everything we once knew and we started focusing on individual people and issues, and the country has suffered as a result. And since 1980, when we allowed Ronald Reagan to be elected, look at what’s happened to us. We’re on the fringes, and we don’t belong there.
Also published on Medium.